Grooming Your Pet

Our pets get dirty. They roll around in stinky stuff, shed hair, break nails, get dirt in their ears, even just smell dirty sometimes. Just like humans who need baths and haircuts and manicures, our pets need grooming too.

But how often should your pet be groomed, what exactly should be done and who should do it can be tricky questions, especially for a new pet owner.

Here’s a quick look at some grooming steps you might want to consider for your pet and some guidelines for your best options for a professional job:

Bathing and Brushing

Indoor pets, both dogs and cats, probably don’t need baths all that often, maybe every few months as long as you brush them regularly to remove dead skin and hair. But outdoor pets should be bathed more regularly and some dogs – those that have a knack for finding every mudhole or dead animal carcass to roll in might need baths much more frequently. Just being outdoors exposes your pets to more dirt in the air, sticky fingers on kids petting them, etc.

You should brush your dogs and cats regularly – daily during shedding season and follow that brushing with a good bath monthly or quarterly. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a good brush for your pet’s hair/fur type. A short-haired pet like a Chihuahua needs a simple brush, but a long-haired pet with a lot of hair like an Old English Sheep Dog needs something completely different. Using the right tools suitable to your pet is important.

You can bathe your pets yourself in your home bathtub or shower or in an outdoor tub if available. Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly since soap residue can cause skin irritation. And also be sure to dry them completely,  including their tummies and ears, two places that tend to grow bacteria if left moist.

See our previous post about bathing your cat for more tips.


Both dogs and cats need their nails trimmed. Note we said trimmed, not removed. Some cat owners make the mistake of removing their cats’ front claws which can leave them defenseless.

If your pets are outdoor pets, you may never have to worry about their nails as they may wear down naturally on the sidewalks or tree climbing. But you should check them often. For cats, trim just the very pointy tip at the end and dogs should be trimmed almost to the quick. Read our previous post on tips for trimming your dog’s nails.

Many dog breeds also have what is called a dew claw on the lower part of their leg near the toes. This nail does not touch the ground so it can’t wear down naturally, so make sure you trim it regularly.


This is another grooming habit that some dogs and cats just don’t need. You don’t trim a Labrador or a Siamese cat, but you might want to trim a Poodle or Newfoundland whose hair gets long and interferes with their sight and even movement.

Unless you are just trimming a bit around the edges or their ‘bangs’ you should have haircuts done by a professional groomer. There are certain areas on your pets’ body that need special attention and areas of the body to avoid, so unless you are a professional, put those clippers down. Most pet stores have grooming services by professional trained groomers.

Eyes and Ears

Another grooming habit pet owners should get into is cleaning their pet’s eyes and ears. You can easily see when you pet has some goop or discharge in their eye. If it’s a regular occurrence, you might want to get it checked out by their vet, otherwise, just wipe it away with a soft damp cloth.

Your pets’ ears are a little trickier, especially for dogs with floppy ears. Each week, you should lift their ears and take a look to ensure that there is nothing going on inside their ear canal. Dogs who spend time in water or recently had a bath should be checked more often as moisture is a breeding ground for infections. Otherwise, a weekly wipe with a soft wipe or Kleenex should be sufficient.

Please don’t neglect your pet’s grooming. If you stay on top of it and do it regularly, it won’t be difficult. It can also develop into a wonderful bonding session for you and your pet…especially if treats are involved, so don’t forget the rewards!

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